San Diego:Brandt Snedeker didn't know how golf could get any better than an opening-round 61 until he walked up the 18th fairway to a standing ovation after expanding his lead and the size of his gallery at the Buick Invitational. "I thought, this is what it feels like to be Tiger Woods," he said. The only thing sweeter would be to beat him. Snedeker overcame some sloppy tee shots with brilliant iron play for a 2-under 70 on the menacing South Course at Torrey Pines, giving the 26-year-old rookie a three-shot lead over Charles Howell III going into the weekend. Woods also received a raucous cheer on the final hole, but only after he topped a 5-wood out of the bunker that nearly went into the water, blasted a pitch over the green into another bunker and escaped with par for a 72 that left him seven shots behind. "All in all, it was a pretty ugly 5," said Woods, the two-time defending champion going for his seventh straight US PGA Tour victory. Snedeker again struggled off the tee, hitting only three fairways. It got so bad that when he finally hit his first fairway on the back nine (No 15), he had a man in the gallery say, "I finally won a dollar." "I guess he was betting on me hitting the fairway," Snedeker said. "It wasn't a smart bet." He could get away with errant tee shots on the shorter, easier North Course, and somehow survived without too much damage on the South, which will host the US Open next year. Snedeker was helped by a 40-foot birdie putt on No 3, a 4-iron into 5 feet on No 12 and making only two bogeys. He was at 13-under 131. Howell got into weekend contention for the second time in three weeks with a 64 on the pitch-and-putt North Course, putting him at 10-under 134. Former US PGA champion Rich Beem had a 68 on the South Course and was at 9-under 135 along with Bill Haas (66 on the North) and Charlie Wi (72 on the South).